In 2019, Maine’s prison system started a pilot program to help prisoners dealing with opioid use disorder. The prisoners received medication that helped them reduce their cravings. Alongside 12-step programs, this helped them stay sober both in and out of prison.
Maine’s Addiction Epidemic
In January 2021, more people died from opioid overdoses than any given month in 2020, starting the state with a stark reminder that the pandemic is causing other public health crises to explode. Maine has lost thousands of lives to drug addiction in the past ten years.
While previously, it appeared the addiction epidemic was on a downswing, the pandemic has caused a new rash of overdoses. In October of 2020, Maine’s Attorney General released figures showing that overdose deaths were climbing during the pandemic. Many overdoses can now be attributed to fentanyl, and most were considered accidental.
Medication-Assisted Treatment Saves Lives
Medication-Assisted Treatment doesn’t only save lives within the prison walls. When people are allowed to stay on MAT during their prison term, they often have the “breathing room” to join recovery groups and participate in therapy.
MAT allows inmates to stay sober when they get out of treatment by reducing cravings. For people with opioid use disorder, this means that they will prevent intense cravings that often lead to relapse and overdose. MAT can help people who are re-entering society to have a fighting chance to stay clean from opioids.
Maine’s Pilot Program Expanding
In Maine, the program has been so successful that it can help more inmates across the state get sober using MAT. Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty says the corrections system expects to treat up to 600 people once the program is up-and-running.
MAT also marks a change in how the criminal justice system views drug addiction and related crimes. Nowadays, people are more aware that opioid use disorder is a disease of the brain. Because of this, they are more willing to see their tax dollars go to treating addiction as a disease rather than the act of a criminal.